The incident at Marie Curie should be a wakeup call to all parents who have children in the New York City public school system. A young girl was brutally pummeled by another student in the middle school’s lunchroom, all caught on camera. While students looked on, nearby teachers were slow to react, eventually separating the girls. The “victor” jumped on a lunchroom table and flexed in “victory.”
This sad and pathetic incident is not an aberration. School violence has been trending upward since Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza was appointed by Mayor de Blasio to run our school system. Carranza recently appeared at the school district’s Community Education Council meeting and proceeded to conduct business as usual. Astonishingly, the issue of school violence wasn’t even on the agenda. When a few of the incensed parents whose children had been victims of violence and bullying tried to speak up, they were shut down. Refusing to be silenced, these parents insisted on being heard, at which time Carranza quickly made an exit.
It was a shameful display of Carranza’s inability to go off-script and engage parents whose children have been victimized by his policies. Tone-deaf to parents, educators and other stakeholders in the public-school system, Carranza shares much of the blame for the sorry state of affairs in our schools. He needs to be held accountable before this generation of school children is lost forever, and the City Council must develop the spine to do its job.
Holding press conferences and touting marginal gains in test scores and graduation rates is disingenuous at best. Those marginal gains in test scores have come not as a result of learning, but a result of dumbing down tests and lowering standards. We know this, because on nationwide standardized testing where passing standards have not changed, NYC students continue to perform at the bottom of the barrel. Graduation rates have risen as the system under Carranza strongly encourages moving students, even unprepared ones, to the next level and eventually to graduation. Data has shown that these graduating students are woefully underprepared for college.
The solution is not pouring more money into the system as many suggest. NYC already spends more per pupil than any other jurisdiction in the nation and still remains at the bottom. This deception by the DOE and City Hall needs to be exposed and the engineers of this social woke experiment need to be held accountable.
Carranza’s failed progressive approach to discipline, called “restorative justice,” makes it virtually impossible to discipline or suspend students in even the most egregious cases of student violence. Principals and especially teachers remain wary about getting involved out of fear of retribution by Carranza’s rigid, ideological, racial-based agenda that sees meting out discipline as racially suspect and something that must be halted except in rare cases of extreme violence. Schools are becoming increasingly dangerous for teachers and students. This toxic combination of recidivist violence and failure to discipline has created a hostile learning environment for the majority of well-behaved students.
Why are the unions and City Council AWOL on such an important matter? Carranza’s well-known racially infused education doctrine that foments racial and ethnic animosity, pitting one group against another, has created a divisive atmosphere among teachers in the public-school system. Only recently has the principals’ union and the United Federation of Teachers begun to murmur about the breakdown of discipline and order in our schools. Shame on them for allowing their teachers and principals to work in such a dangerous environment and refusing to shine a laser-like focus on the need to bring back teaching basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Voters must get informed and not be fooled by the chicanery of school administrators cherry-picking school performance data that show ticks of upward progress. When school performance is measured against national, unchanging standards, the truth emerges, and these marginal education gains evaporate.
Public charter schools remain the one bright spot in the city school system. Their success, based on national standards of educational performance, is unparalleled. These schools have become the beacons of hope, especially for parents of color who have few options in the schools their kids attend. Unfortunately, there is an ideological war on these institutions by the progressive political class. Unless parents take back their schools, force accountability and stand up for their kids, like the parents of Marie Curie did, this battle will be lost, and our children will forever suffer.
Bob Friedrich is President of Glen Oaks Village, a civic leader and a former City Council candidate.